- Rt. Hon. Mark Drakeford MS (Chair)
- Rebecca Evans MS
- Vaughan Gething MS
- Lesley Griffiths MS (15 September)
- Jane Hutt MS
- Julie James MS (15 September)
- Jeremy Miles MS
- Eluned Morgan MS
- Mick Antoniw MS
- Dawn Bowden MS
- Hannah Blythyn MS
- Julie Morgan MS
- Lynne Neagle MS
- Lee Waters MS
- Shan Morgan, Permanent Secretary (13 September)
- Des Clifford, Director General Office of the First Minister
- Will Whiteley, Deputy Director Cabinet Division
- Toby Mason, Strategic Communications
- Jane Runeckles, Special Adviser
- Madeleine Brindley, Special Adviser
- Alex Bevan, Special Adviser
- Daniel Butler, Special Adviser
- Ian Butler, Special Adviser
- Kate Edmunds, Special Adviser
- Sara Faye, Special Adviser
- Clare Jenkins, Special Adviser
- Andrew Johnson, Special Adviser
- Mitch Theaker, Special Adviser
- Tom Woodward, Special Adviser
- Christopher W Morgan, Cabinet Secretariat (minutes)
- Damian Roche, Cabinet Secretariat
- Tracey Burke, Director General, Education and Public Services
- Andrew Goodall, Director General, Health
- Reg Kilpatrick, Director General, COVID-19 Crisis Coordination
- Andrew Slade, Director General, Economy, Skills and Natural Resources
- Frank Atherton CMO
- Rob Orford, Chief Scientific Adviser Health
- Fliss Bennee, Co-Chair TAC
- Liz Lalley, Deputy Director Recovery
- Tom Smithson, COVID-19 Restart
- Helen Lentle, Director Legal Services
- Dylan Hughes, First Legislative Counsel (15 September)
- Neil Buffin, Senior Lawyer
- Terry Kowal, Senior Legislative Counsel
Item 1: Minutes of previous meetings
1.1 Cymeradwyodd y Cabinet gofnodion y 23 Awst / Cabinet approved the minutes of 23 August.
Item 2: Review of Coronavirus Restrictions (No. 5) Regulations – 16 September 2021 CAB(20-21)33
2.1 The First Minister introduced the paper, which sought a steer on the current review period of the Coronavirus Restrictions (No. 5) Regulations.
2.2 Ministers were reminded that the restrictions relating to COVID-19 within the Coronavirus Control Plan were for the purpose of preventing, protecting against, controlling or providing a public health response to the incidence, spread of infection or contamination. There must be a threat to public health and the restrictions had to be proportionate in what they were intending to achieve.
2.3 The First Minister invited the Chief Medical Officer to provide an overview of the current public health situation.
2.4 Community transmission remained high with the overall seven day average around 500 in every 100,000 of the population. However, test positivity was decreasing slightly. Vaccine induced immunity was beginning to wane and there was now a growth in transmission and harms amongst older and frailer members of the community. Advice on the autumn vaccine booster programme would be submitted to ministers the following day.
2.5 The Chief Executive of the NHS reported that hospital and ICU admissions continued to rise, with 563 beds being occupied by COVID-19 related patients. Health boards were now at the high end of the operational modelling for the pandemic, and it was hoped that this would stabilise shortly. Those receiving critical care had reduced over the past week.
2.6 Overall, the NHS was the busiest it had been for a number of years, in addition to the pressures of COVID-19, there were record numbers of emergency admissions along with pent up community demand and recovery efforts. Health boards were taking local decisions to deal with the pressures, which included the postponement of routine operations and the suspension of hospital visits. There was also the issue of containment and there were currently 9 outbreaks of the virus in hospitals across Wales.
2.7 Cabinet agreed that the current Alert Level 0 should be retained for the current review period.
2.8 It was reported that the four CMOs had submitted advice to government recommending that all healthy children in the UK between the ages of 12 and 15 should be offered a single dose of the vaccine. This would help reduce disruption to education. The CMOs concluded that this factor had tipped the balance in favour of vaccination over the advice previously provided by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. There was a meeting of all 4 UK health ministers later that morning to consider the recommendation of the CMOs.
2.9 Cabinet confirmed the Welsh Government should follow this advice.
2.10 Ministers considered the advice set out in the paper about the introduction of compulsory domestic vaccine certificates for entering high risk events and venues, such as nightclubs.
2.11 The Scottish Government had announced a mandatory certification scheme, which would be introduced from 1st October. However, the UK government had signalled, the previous day, that it would be postponing its much publicised plans for a similar scheme in England.
2.12 Cabinet had a wide ranging discussion about whether to mandate such a scheme in Wales, particularly around the legal and ethical issues, and suggested another potential option was to close high risk venues in response to an escalating public health situation. However, before ministers could take a substantive decision, officials would need to provide further advice on a number of issues.
2.13 It was agreed that Cabinet would reconvene later that week once officials had gathered the additional information requested by ministers.
Wednesday 15 September
3.1 The First Minister referred to a note by officials, which provided an update on the changing context where ministers would need to take a decision on whether to introduce mandatory vaccine certification for high risk venues in Wales. The note also responded to a number of key issues raised at Cabinet on Monday.
3.2 Ministers were again reminded that the restrictions relating to COVID-19 within the Coronavirus Control Plan were for the purpose of preventing, protecting against, controlling or providing a public health response to the incidence, spread of infection or contamination. There must be a threat to public health and the restrictions had to be proportionate in what they were intending to achieve.
3.3 It was not clear why the UK government had changed its position on Sunday about introducing mandatory certification in England from 1st October.
3.4 However, the UK government had published its Winter Plan on Tuesday, which set out how it would control the spread of COVID-19 in England through the coming months. Certification for high risk events had been listed under ‘plan b’ and other measures under this plan were already a requirement in Wales.
3.5 Given that the benefits of introducing certification to align with Scotland and England no longer existed the note outlined the advantages and disadvantages of a Wales only system.
3.6 It was suggested that rather than a mandatory certificate, the ‘covid-pass’ could be made compulsory for high risk venues. This system was already in use and encouraged through guidance as a reasonable mitigation measure in nightclubs and other venues. This would also address some of the ethical concerns as it would allow those who had not been able to be vaccinated for medical reasons to take a lateral flow test in advance.
3.7 Cabinet also considered a range of alternative options, such as mandating certain reasonable measures that could include returning to the wider use of face coverings, table service and social distancing in hospitality, reduced capacity in venues and even the closure of high risk establishments.
3.8 Some thought could also be given to requiring the use of ventilation machines.
3.9 Cabinet concluded, given the time constraints and other practical issues, it would not be possible to introduce mandatory vaccine certificates for entry into high risk venues by 1st October. However, this should remain an option and would be revisited should the UK government introduce a system for England.
3.10 Instead, the use of the covid-pass would be mandated for use in nightclubs, high risk venues and major events.
3.11 It was agreed that, alongside confirming the strengthening of the vaccination programme and the announcement concerning the use of the covid-pass, the First Minister, at his press conference on Friday, should outline the seriousness of the situation as Wales was on the edge of being able to remain in Alert Level 0 and ministers were already considering the re-introduction of non-pharmaceutical interventions.
3.12 There would also be a need to emphasise more strongly the need for people to work from home and the continued use of face coverings on public transport, also while shopping. Public transport and retail outlets would need to do more to enforce this by making announcements and asking managers to ensure enforcement. Furthermore, businesses should be reminded of their obligation to update their risk assessments and incorporate additional reasonable measures. Should these measures fail to contain the spread of the virus there may be a need to close high risk venues.
3.13 Cabinet agreed officials should proceed in-line with the decisions made by ministers.